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Fridge Brilliance

  • Arthur fires eight shots out of his six-shooter when he kills the men on the train. If you even notice it at all, you might just write it off as being a typical case of Bottomless Magazines. A little odd for just how grounded in reality the rest of the movie is...until you remember that we're watching this through the perspective of the ultimate Unreliable Narrator of The Joker himself. That "error" was likely completely intentional.
    • Or he reloaded before leaving the train to chase after the last guy. Given that it's a revolver, Arthur can easily put one or two rounds in while running.
  • As the Joker, Arthur claims that "nothing can hurt him anymore". Sure enough, he's able to survive getting hit by a taxi and a fatal car crash once he dons the makeup.
    • Joker Immunity in full effect, if you will...
    • Arthur's been experiencing intense physical abuse all his life, even from early childhood. Your body tends to become more resistant to pain and trauma when you live a life like that.
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    • There’s also the way the crash happened: the first car hit the police cruiser from the side, causing the cruiser to spin. Once the spin is over, another car hits them head on and goes over them. Assuming Arthur was knocked over by the first impact (and he had no seatbelt, so he would’ve been), the second car, which would’ve been the one to kill the cop driving him, would’ve missed him completely.
  • Throughout the movie, there are signs that the entire story is all in Joker's head. Things that don't make sense like how Bruce is always serious and sullen like Batman, Bruce's playhouse being so far from the house and a short distance from an easily scalable wall, or why the Waynes were seeing Zorro, The Gay Blade.
  • The first sign that Arthur and Sophie's relationship isn't real is when Sophie first shows up to his apartment after learning he has been stalking her and is surprisingly calm when Arthur admits to it. No woman, let alone a single mother, would react to that bombshell with such good humor.
    • Notice also how Sophie never interacts with another person when she's with Arthur, and rarely seems to make eye contact with Arthur himself.
  • The Wayne family leaving a ritzy theater playing a double bill that includes the film Zorro, the Gay Blade may seem like a cheeky Mythology Gag to the fact that it is traditionally The Mark of Zorro that Bruce's parents take him to view on the night of their demise, but it makes sense in the context of that film — Diego de la Vega is waylaid by injury, forcing his more theatrical brother to don the mask and cloak in his stead. He proves to be even more effective than the traditional Zorro, with his theatrics confusing the villains he fights... all of which might have an impact on a young Bruce down the line.
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    • The kicker? Ramón de la Vega wields a whip, which is both less lethal than a blade and has certain connotations for Bruce down the timeline.
  • It's been noted that none of the massive ramifications of Arthur's actions were intentional: he didn't mean to cause an Eat the Rich movement the way he did and he certainly didn't mean to cause the massive riot at the end. However, that doesn't mean he dislikes them or doesn't use them to his advantage. In other words, not only does he have no plan, he's just an agent of chaos. Joker's talk with Murray comes as close as possible to confirming this similarity without outright shouting it out.
    Ledger's Joker: Do I really look like a guy with a plan?
    Phoenix's Joker: Do I look like the kind of clown who could start a movement?
  • It's ironic that Thomas Wayne says on TV that "anyone who has to wear a mask to solve their problems is a coward", given who his son is.
    • Doubling the irony is that he and Martha get shot by a guy wearing a clown mask
  • In the beginning of the film, the news and Murray report on the recent outbreak of "Super Rats", once ordinary rodents that have grown larger, more dangerous and harder to kill due to the increased littering and deteriorating condition of Gotham, which could serve as a parallel to Arthur himself. He starts the film as another poor, scrounging face in the crowd looked down on by the rest of the world around him, but because of society's mistreatment Arthur evolves into the Joker. He becomes more dangerous, harder to kill and inspires a city-wide movement that makes him much larger than the nobody he was before.
  • If anything in this origin story is true, Joker’s later obsession with Batman would make some more sense. Batman always goes out of his way to save Joker, when everybody else would rather let the monster clown die. Batman would always call Arthur by his actual name instead of Joker (since it would be public knowledge who the Joker is) and after beating him, would always tell him to get the help he desperately needs. Batman never laughs too so he would never laugh at Arthur. In Arthur’s eyes, Batman would be the one person who actually cares about him as Arthur Fleck.
    • And if there was ever a confrontation in the style of The Killing Joke, then Batman laughing at one of his jokes may seem even more heartwarming if he remembers how desperate Arthur was to entertain him all those years ago.
    • There's also the obvious point that as far as Arthur knows, he and Bruce could be family. He did have the photo of Penny signed with "T.W.", and even if he accepted the claims of abuse at face-value that doesn't mean he wouldn't wonder to himself if all of his mother's claims on her relationship with Thomas were lies. This can dovetail into the above where Bruce shows genuine compassion for Arthur, letting Arthur have someone he can connect to as a brother.
  • One could compare Arthur's story to the message in To Kill a Mockingbird if you think about it. It's a sin to kill a mockingbird because they don't do anything to harm people, all they want to do is sing their songs to the world, so why harm them? All Arthur wanted to do was spread joy and make others laugh yet people made fun of him, broke him down and hurt him just because they have failed to understand his intentions. He is truly a broken mockingbird who has been shot at way too many times and his last attempt at trying to sing to the world (become a stand-up comedian on TV) ended up as yet another attempt from a human who he trusted to trap him in a cage and throw rocks at him (Murray making fun of him), until that mockingbird finally got tired of it. Also, just like a mockingbird, Arthur wanted to be a clown, but not a literal clown in that he's to be shunned and put down because of it, but as one who just wants to make others laugh in a good-natured way. A mockingbird is called a mockingbird not because it's a pathetic and silly bird that you point and mock at for fun, but because they can mimic other animals and fool them before attacking them. As the Joker, Arthur had became that mockingbird in which he will no longer tolerate being shot at and literally mocked at, but one who gets his name and respect from being an aggressive one and asserting his dominance from diving down and attacking those who have tried to harm him. Bring in the clowns AND the mockingbirds...
  • Why is it that Arthur's never questioned by the police about approaching Wayne manor, disturbing Bruce, assaulting Alfred, or confronting Thomas? Is it because they could never narrow him down from any description they would have been given? Or did Thomas Wayne deliberately make sure the police didn't get involved and try to handle the matter himself because he was afraid of what Arthur would tell them (and get leaked to the press) if he were arrested? If the latter explanation is true, it could be more evidence that he really was Arthur's father and didn't want anyone to know.
    • Alternatively, Thomas doesn't want a scandal involving him to break out just before his mayoral campaign. Whether the allegation is true or not, getting involved in such a thing can affect his public image, especially in light of his classist comment. If Thomas really is Arthur's father, getting the media's attention is a surefire way of forcing himself into taking a paternity test. If he doesn't take the test, the media will only see it as a sign of guilt and latch onto the narrative even harder.
      • But were paternity tests available back in 1981?
      • Paternity tests via blood type matching became popular in the USA in the 1920s. ACCURATE testing methods with ACTUAL genetic material were developed in the 1960s. While Thomas Wayne doesn't seem to be a doctor in this version, he's smart enough to know that if a DNA test was done between him and Arthur and a connection was found, then it would lead to some serious problems...
  • When Arthur lets Gary leave after the former kills Randall in revenge for getting fired, Arthur thanks Gary for his kindness. Why would Gary be kind to Arthur apart from just being a nice guy? Because of his own condition. Since Gary is a dwarf living in 1980's Gotham, he's likely faced ridicule and cruelty from others simply because of how short he is. And since Arthur has been suffering from mental conditions that bring him ridicule and cruelty from other Gotham civilians, Gary likely took pity on Arthur and treated him with kindness as a sort of comradeship towards Arthur.
    • Not just likely; we see a little bit of it. Randall is constantly making condescendingly mean jokes about Gary's condition, and the other performers at their workplace laugh along with Randall's jibes.
  • In The Dark Knight Joker implies he became Joker because of Batman. Guess why Bruce will eventually grow up to be Batman in this universe...
    Joker: I don't wanna kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no. No. No, you...you complete me.
  • During the climax, Joker rants about how he killed the three men on the subway because they were awful, guess what he calls Murray moments later?
  • "You get what you fucking deserve" can also be applied to the city itself. In the upcoming years, it will be filled with more violence, corruption and crime that threaten it's citizens — rich and poor — until decades later they will finally get a Hope Bringer in the form of the spread wings of a bat, shining in the clouds.
    • It also sets up a parallel to The Dark Knight as well, since Gordon refers to Batman as a hero that "Gotham" deserves. And thus: Gotham truly got what they "fucking" deserve: a villain to highlight the corruption and a hero to correct it.
  • During the interrogation in The Dark Knight, Joker gives the quote for the Humans Are Bastards trope where people are so selfish that they throw away their moral code at the first sign of trouble. What happened to the Arthur is where this belief originated.
    • First, how he got fired. Randall could have bailed Arthur out by explaining the situation with the gun, but he instead lied and pretended he had nothing to do with the matter so he would not face consequences himself.
    • Second was with his mother. Penny looked like a caring mother, but it turns out that she abused him and even used him as a shield by tying him to a radiator.
  • The music is generally discordant, unsettling and tonally dissonant, to reflect Arthur's decaying mental state. One of the few exceptions, however, is when Arthur encounters Bruce Wayne, at which point the music briefly sounds hopeful and inspiring. To Arthur, this is because he's meeting the boy who could be (is? He thinks?) his brother. To the audience, however, there's another reason — we're meeting the boy who will one day be Batman, a figure of hope and inspiration for the city.
  • "You get what you fuckin' deserve!" But do they? At least, do all of them? Yes, Randall hung Arthur out to dry for getting caught with the gun Randall provided him with — but he's not the reason Arthur got caught with it, while he may be a bit of a jerk he originally gave him the weapon as an act of kindness, to help protect himself and really, does he really do anything to Arthur that justifies his rather gruesome, painful murder? Yes, Murray played Arthur's stand-up video on his show and mocked him — but does that crime merit death either? And while Arthur can claim self-defense for two of the yuppies he kills at the station, the third is running away when Arthur kills him. He doesn't even take part in the protests against societal injustice that he inspires, and claims to be apolitical and disinterested. For all that Arthur may have a point about the way the world is treating him, it should be remembered that he is still, for the most part, lashing out against people who wrong him personally rather than the system he ends up railing against, and in a disproportionate fashion at that. Murray Franklin has a point as well.
    • Actually it’s noticeable as the movie progressed Arthur’s murders get much less justified. Killing both the first and second Wall Street yuppies was self-defense and justified. Killing the third guy was very clearly murder but he’s still an Asshole Victim who attacked an mentally ill man and was harassing a lady who was uninterested (him running away just shows him as a Dirty Coward, it in no way means he didn’t deserve to die). Killing his mom because she let him get abused and did nothing to stop people it is understandable but it isn’t the right thing to do at all. While Randall was a False Friend and a Jerkass, Killing him simply because he got Arthur fired is going way too far especially since it’s implied Randall genuinely gave him the gun for protection. Killing Murray because he mocked him once (albeit not in front of millions of people) is completely unjustified as Murray was a decent man in person. Then it’s implied he killed his therapist at the end who never wronged him in any way. As his kills progress they slowly become less justified until they are completely unjustified.
  • Arthur's makeup as Joker greatly resembles that of John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer/rapist who victimized over 30 young men and boys. While this can easily be chalked up as just a reference, it's also possible that this was an intentional decision by Arthur. He's basically flaunting to the world that yes, he is a murderous clown, and literally nobody catches on until it's too late.
  • At first, it may make some viewers question as to why a big name like Marc Maron had such a small role in the film. Maron's character tries to convince Murray to drop Arthur's appearance on "The Murray Franklin Show", due to his fear of the resulting controversy. Murray decides to put him on anyway, where he proceeds to mock him. Maron is probably most famous through his podcast, "WTF with Marc Maron", a show that's been praised for never mocking its guests, Maron's acceptance of some of his guests' quirks and avoiding controversy, as much as possible. Essentially, Murray represents the shady, manipulative side of the talk show business, while Maron's character represents the accepting, thoughtful side.
    • Maron is a big name in stand-up comedy and podcasting. As a film actor his pre-Joker credits were unremarkable.
  • Believe it or not, the opening and closing credits contain a certain level of brilliance: The film opens with the long outdated 70s Warner Bros. logo, most associated with the dark, cynical character studies of the 70s. When the film starts, Arthur views himself as a mentally ill outsider tortured by an uncaring society, no doubt a perfect protagonist for those kinds of films. This represents his tragic view of his life. In contrast to that, the final scene, in which Arthur is chased by orderlies after he kills his psychiatrist, feels like something out of a silent comedy, from his Keystone Kops-esque run to the stylized "The End" title card. Perfectly fitting of his new darkly comedic worldview and his acquired Joker persona.
  • The gang who accost Arthur while he's working his sign say something like "If you're gonna be a clown, you could at least not be a fuckin' terrible clown". Is it a cruel thing to say to someone who was just minding his own business (and honestly putting on a bit of a show)? Yes. But it also suits exactly what he turns into...
  • This one was pointed out by Epic Rap Battles of History (S6:E8, The Joker vs Pennywise) of all things. It's surprisingly fitting for the Joker to be played by an actor with the name Phoenix, a bird that rises from the dead, considering the character's reputation for Joker Immunity in past incarnations.
  • Arthur Fleck's backstory gives Batman's habit of adopting orphaned and troubled boys a doubly tragic and heartwarming tinge. At some point, Bruce must have figured out Fleck's connection to Thomas Wayne and, regardless of whether they were biologically connected or not, how Thomas's decision to abandon the Flecks eventually led to creation of the Joker and the death of Bruce's parents. So taking care of boys like Dick and Jason is in part pragmatic (prevent them from potentially becoming future criminals) and a way to make up for his father's mistakes.
  • Many depictions of the Joker are given a deep and/or raspy voice with Heath Ledger's having a near-croak at times. One reason for having Arthur constantly smoking cigarettes throughout the film is to allude to the idea that his voice will eventually have the same depth and rasp of more traditional versions of the character as is a common side-effect of long term chain-smoking.
    • Not to mention, all that constant laughter can do a number on one's vocal cords.
  • Aside from the normal use of the Makeup Is Evil trope for the Joker, Arthur's makeup is used to illustrate his declining mental state; while working as a clown, Arthur is shown at the beginning of the movie crying and ruining his makeup around one of his eyes and messily dabbing lipstick on his mouth, which ends up with him having slightly uneven makeup, hinting at his fragile mind set. When he becomes the Joker, his makeup resembles the way he styled it for work, however, any attempt at neatness or uniformity is gone, as Arthur's makeup now is messy, crudely applied, with grossly exaggerated features like the uneven smile and the diamond around his eye that makes him look like he's crying.
  • Arthur is upset when Murray plays his video on the show and makes fun of him for it, and is especially hurt when Murray remarks "you can say that again" in response to Arthur's "nobody's laughing now" comment. This isn't just a big name star humiliating an amateur hopeful comedian, it's Murray getting a bigger laugh for explaining Arthur's joke, and if you have to explain the joke, there is no joke.
  • Arthur's milquetoast nature before he snaps puts an interesting perspective on his later relationship with Harley Quinn. Joker and Harley seem to have a textbook(or as close to textbook as you can get for a mental disorder that's only been looked into in the last couple of years) Narcissist/Echoist relationship, and, based on her other relationship with Poison Ivy, Harley may very well suffer from Echo Personality Disorder. Perhaps Joker's treatment of her is, at least subconsciously, an attempt to break her out of her cycle of self-loathing and neglect?
  • The Gotham in this film is suffering under a garbage strike, causing massive piles of trash to be left in alleyways, sidewalks, doorways and even hallways. Unsurprisingly, it not only creates a horrific stench that offends Heaven, but also breeds disease and even "super rats", all of this causing not only widespread discomfort, but even illness from pestilence, possibly leading to death. This situation is caused by striking workers, who are directed by unions which are headed by the wealthy, privileged elite, who live in homes remote, spacious and well equipped enough that they do not have to endure the hellacious results of their avarice and greed. Arthur, in his Pre-Mortem One-Liner to Murray Franklin, states that he's been "treated like trash". How apropos: Arthur is usually messy and unkempt, he probably doesn't smell very good all the time, and when he's beaten in the street or the subway, he lies on the ground like a discarded heap of refuse. He even states "if it were me lying in the street, you'd walk right over me"... just like a bag of garbage. And like the plague of garbage, Arthur causes citywide discomfort, unrest, and death, and his situation (cutbacks disable him getting the medication he needs) is caused by corporate and/or municipal greed. Adding further credence to this parallel: the trash has birthed the onset of "super rats"- plague carriers that harm humans. The Joker and the clown rioters he spawned fit this description quite well. And even Murray's throwaway line about "super cats" being posed as the solution for the rats could serve as Foreshadowing for a certain dark themed superHERO...
  • The joke at the end had to be Arthur realizing the irony of him creating Batman. It could be years later, as noted, and as a traditionally fourth-wall-breaking clown he must have some backstory knowledge. And we know he loves irony, so it must be funny to him that instead of Batman creating him, he created Batman.
  • Why is it such a shock to the vast majority of the audience that Sophie was not really in a relationship with Arthur? Because in most, if not all the depictions of their (supposed) interactions, she made comments and/or suggestions that were somewhat in bad taste, if not outright inflammatory, about what's been going on around them ("come in and rob my bank", "three less assholes in Gotham City"). Comments like this don't necessary confirm that someone is a terrible (if not deranged) person, but it does paint Sophie as someone whose mindset would be right in line with the future Joker's mode of thinking, making their (supposed) relationship much more plausible. Of course, seeing as how the disturbed Arthur is the one basically "writing Sophie's lines", it's natural that this would happen.
  • In the first movie of Batman (1989), the Joker, Jack Napier, was the man that murdered Bruce’s parents, leading to the creation of Batman, that later, by accident, let Jack fall into the chemical tank, turning him into the Joker. In this adaptation, Bruce parents are murdered by a rioter with a clown mask, while Arthur was let down by Thomas Wayne, he let Arthur “fall” into a spiral of depression and hopelessness that turn him into the Joker. In both films, both Bruce and the Joker end up creating each other, in direct or indirect ways.

Fridge Horror

  • In other media, Joe Chill was just a mugger. Here, he was a rioter influenced by Joker. Will this influence Batman's view on criminals?
  • How many other people in Gotham were attacked or killed that night, spurned on by Joker telling them to give people "What they deserve"?
  • Since Murray Franklin's show was stated to be family-friendly, just imagine the amount of children witnessing him getting shot to death on camera.
    • And that's assuming he wasn't joking (as a talk show like his would take place during the late-night time, where children are often in bed) or was actually playfully referencing censorship that shows like his would have had to deal with at that time (shows on public channels like CBS and NBC would have had to follow certain rules for broadcast).
    • And imagine this: Arthur will most likely be too old of a Joker to properly combat Batman for a long period of timenote . At least one of those kids must have let Joker's anarchistic statements prior to killing Murray soak into their heads...and perhaps Joker's corruption has gone on a bit further than just a rioting group of people...
  • Is Arthur's laughter a mere twisted sense of humor, or was it spurred from the child abuse? It could have been a behavioural response to laugh instead of cry so as not to get beaten for crying.
  • When Arthur goes back to Sophie's apartment she's startled to see him in her home because they never spoke after briefly meeting in the elevator, and he just imagined that they were in a relationship. When she quietly ask he leave because her daughter is sleeping, he does. The sirens in the background make it ambiguous as to whether he merely stormed out of her apartment and left them alone after that, or whether he killed them both during a psychotic episode...or not, as Word of God has Jossed this interpretation and said that "definitively", Arthur did not harm her, and that he only harms people who wronged him somehow.
  • Gotham is such a shitty place that a man can just drop a gun in the middle of a Children's Hospital and no one does anything about it. The cops aren't called, Arthur isn't asked to show he legally purchased it or that he can legally possess one in the first place. Imagine the lives that could have been saved if cops in Gotham actually did something.
    • Since this is pre-Batman Gotham, the GCPD is ridiculously corrupt, underfunded, and ineffective. The police are little more than basically just another gang and only work to uphold the law in extreme circumstances where their hand is forced, like a riot...
    • This being 1981 pre-moral-panic days, these sort of incidents were probably considered not important enough to get the cops involved.
  • After seeing Arthur's laughing fits leave him out of breath and in visible pain, it's not hard to see where the Joker got the idea for a toxin that kills people through laughter.
  • The idea that Arthur only now knows he was beaten as a child makes some sense; he could have either repressed the memory as a child, or received amnesia due to head trauma.
    • Adding to this theory, we now know of a condition called CTE, which can occur after constant severe head trauma. Its not discovered until a person is deceased, because of the area a doctor needs to look to diagnosis it. Given the cruel violent abuse Arthur suffered from his mother's boyfriend, he could have easily developed this condition as a child, and many of the symptoms for CTE you see play out in the film, making the supervillain Arthur becomes a lot more understandable.
  • If the filmmakers had gone with What Could Have Been where Arthur carries out the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne himself only to then turn back and kill Bruce, the ending would have been a lot worse. Not only Gotham City is now a place where anarchy, murder and crime reign, but Batman will never come to exist to defend it.
  • Bruce Wayne is already a withdrawn and sad kid even before his parents' murder. This implies that he is living a horrible life under his Jerkass father, who, unlike practically all previous incarnations of the character, is shown not to be a saint.
    • Horrible life is stretching it. Thomas could be a strict and authoritarian father like a male Education Mama, or one too focused on his work to spend quality time with Bruce, but I find it hard to believe that he's outright abusive. Bruce's also rich and upper-class and has Alfred to protect him. Then again, we know close to nothing about the Waynes.
    • For all his other faults, Thomas Wayne is not an abusive father. He decks Arthur for putting hands on Bruce. He clearly cares for his son.
    • The entire film is Through the Eyes of Madness. Arthur's an exceptionally Unreliable Narrator, and we clearly see signs large and small that some of the events do not happen as the film depicts.

Fridge Logic

  • With 1981 technology, how likely was it for Murray Franklin to get good quality camera footage (with good quality sound) from Arthur's show?
    • It looks like it was filmed by the club, which would have access to decent quality equipment. It's possible an employee at the club submitted a tape to Murray's show.

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